On wednesday the Guardian ran a story about author Terry Deary and his views on Libraries. In it he called them ” a Victorian idea and we are in an electronic age. They either have to change and adapt or they have to go.” Deary of course does speak some sense. Libraries can and should change, most are just places to pick up the latest best seller, a place to drop into on the way home.
What prompted Deary was the decision by Sunderland Council to make savings in the budget by closing a number of their libraries. Now Durham scaled their libraries back, reducing the opening times but maintaining somewhat decent coverage. Newcastle on the other hand has been nationally lambasted for imposing draconian cuts on Arts and leisure in what is an obvious attempt at playing politics.
Deary is right that they need to adapt, rather than just a room with a few books and a few computers, Libraries should become a focus point for the community. A place where people can meet up, read a good book and maybe even have a chat and a cuppa. Some of the smaller libraries stock mainly pulp fiction and celebrity autobiographies and that’s it.
Newcastle’s central library is a good example of what a library can be I can’t see a problem with them offering more than just a book collection service, why can’t they offer something else, maybe exhibitions? For example Chester-le-street used to have a cabinet with Roman artefacts from the fort, Sacriston has paintings by the local art club and the downstairs of Sunderland Library always has displays. How about coffee? what’s to stop a coffee shop opening inside libraries so you can read the book, over a drink? the money raised from the drinks could go back into the library system so we may finally have books that aren’t out of date?
I’m disappointed with Deary, he managed to raise valid points but coated them in self interest, complaining that he gets around £6000 a year from Libraries lending his books out some 500,000 times but 30p a book from a sale makes him sound bitter and in it for the money. Deary seems to think that users of Libraries are middle class “looters”. I’d love to know which Library he’s been to because it doesn’t sound like any I’ve been in.